By: Roberto Rojas
Asst. Circulation Manager
I’ve always considered myself a big sports fan, and I’ve grown up watching NFL players such as Tom Brady, Eli and Peyton Manning, and various others. In baseball, growing up as a Yankees fan, I’ve always considered Derek Jeter as my idol in the MLB but still appreciated players like Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixera and Albert Pujols. For basketball, I always admired Kevin Garnett when he played for the Boston Celtics but also enjoyed the superb and amazing talent of once-in-a-lifetime players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade and Tim Duncan.
I’ve just enjoyed playing and watching sports all my life, and I don’t know where I would be without it.
However, there is one sport I love more than baseball, basketball and football. A sport that quite literally came into my life nearly 20 years ago and hopefully remains a part of it until the day I die: soccer.
Growing up with parents of Paraguayan descent, it was no doubt that soccer was always going to be a part of my life. How could I escape it? From what my parents tell me, the first gift I ever got for my birthday was a soccer ball from the 1998 World Cup. I knew then, even as an infant, that this sport would change and ultimately shape my life.
I’ll admit that I was never the greatest soccer player in the world, but I still played so much as a kid growing up in Bridgeport. Whether it be on youth teams in elementary school and high school or just a random game of pickup at my local park, I still played soccer as much as I watched it on TV or YouTube videos. I’d watch certain teams and players and tried my best to copy their styles, and I even played various editions of FIFA on my Xbox 360.
Now you might be thinking, “how could a sport be so connected to a person’s life when there are other things to worry about, like your education, your health, your family—anything but something as material a thing as a soccer ball?” It’s much more than that.
Ask anyone who’s been involved in the sport for a majority of their life and they’ll probably articulate that it’s more than just a game. For some, soccer is an escape from the problems of the world. For others, it’s a source of joy, sometimes a source of drama, and even anger, occasionally.
With the World Cup coming next summer, it’ll be time for the entire world to tune in to watch some of the greatest players in the world who dominate week after week for their clubs—i.e. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United—and represent their countries with the goal to end the tournament as the best team in the world.
However, this upcoming World Cup will be a different one for a lot of fans in the United States. For the first time since 1986, the United States won’t be participating in the biggest sporting event in the world, alongside some other countries such as Italy, the Netherlands and Chile.
Despite this, watchers shouldn’t just turn off their TVs and tune out from the World Cup. Instead, I encourage you to watch it because of wonderful superstar players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Paul Pogba and many others from 32 countries who will fight to become the champions of the world, all representing their native countries.
Those names I’ve mentioned are just some of those who have become popular in a sport that perhaps hasn’t caught the interest of the United States compared to more established American sports like baseball, basketball and football. Nevertheless, there is life for soccer in this country despite the United States not participating in the World Cup.
However, millions of kids around the nation are falling in love with the sport in ways and through resources just like I did when I was little. With those aforementioned players being more noticeable year in and year out on par with players in the American leagues, there are also some players who could be the flag bearer for this sport, like 19-year-old Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund or Alex Morgan of the women’s national team, who is serving as an inspiration and idol like a Messi or Ronaldo for boys and girls around the country who play the sport.
So all I can say is that I want to thank my parents for introducing me to soccer, “the beautiful game,” which not only served as something that truly became influential in my life but will serve as something useful for as long as I live.